By In Theology

The Art of Balanced Living

In Book III of Plato’s Republic, Socrates and Glaucon engage in a dialogue concerning music and gymnastic. Socrates proposes that music is pivotal for a well-ordered soul, and gymnastic is pivotal for a well-ordered body, but too much music, without gymnastic can make a person too soft. Whereas too much gymnastic, without music, can make a person too hard and forceful. He proposes that a wise leader needs both music and gymnastic in order to be “tuned to the proper degree of tension and relaxation”—in order for the person to be harmonious.

Considering harmony, do we balance our lives amidst the host of good choices that God has placed before us? Do we live a balanced life so that we can lead a balanced church or team or family? Do we see each member and each personality as balancing the other personalities and members in order be “tuned to the proper degree of tension and relaxation?” Can we relax in the reality that God has ordained things as they are, or is there always tension that someone is getting in the way of us being successful? Can we be thankful for a proper tension even though the pressure is sometimes extreme, knowing that iron-sharpening-iron creates heat and sparks?

The word “balance” used to rub me the wrong way. It felt like a mystical, Eastern spiritualism promoting both good and evil in some yin-yangy sort of way. But what about balance between some good and some other good? What if the colors of the particular yin-yang in front of you are not black and white, but red and blue, or green and purple? What if, internally, we are trying to balance our gold with our silver with our precious things? What if, externally, we have some good and someone else has some other good and someone else another? (more…)

Read more

By In Politics

Happy 142nd, GKC!

One-Hundred and forty-two years ago this Sunday, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington, England.  I tend to keep track of the anniversary of his birth, because I was born 100 years and 2 days later.  (It would be way cooler if the “2 days” part was not there, but it is what it is.)

Since you’re here, and given the small amount of time you have to devote to reading blog posts, I am going to give you the gift of brevity for Mr. Chesterton’s birthday, i.e. I’m going to hush and let GKC speak for himself.  If the best gift you can give an author is to quote him, then Mr. Chesterton, having perfected the art of quotability, must be one of the easiest people in the world to buy for.

Below is a sampling of his poetry. Although it is not his best-known genre, it is one of my favorites.  Also, through his poems, you can instill a love for him in your children that may be hard to accomplish through prose while they are young.  My children will not remember the day before they heard the following three poems, and I can’t imagine them ever wanting to.

Hint: For maximum enjoyment, read the poems aloud.  The words take shape when they’re spoken that cannot be formed in your brain.  If you don’t believe me, try it both ways.  I think you’ll like them better aloud. So will your kids.  (Your best, fake, British accent doesn’t hurt either.)

The Englishman

St George he was for England,
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail,
It isn’t safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon’s meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You mustn’t give him beans.

St George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn’t safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.

Here’s our second favorite.  If you have an interpretation, we’d love to hear it.  If not, that’s okay. We’ll never love it any less. (more…)

Read more

By In Politics

Family Liturgy: Short and Sweet

If you are anything like me, daily life in your household generally conforms to a pattern, a liturgy, a modus operandi. Every day certain things happen, and other things happen every few days. Some patterns, however, are weekly, monthly, or annually. Some things are necessary on a daily basis, like eating and drinking, and as long as we’re alive, these will continue unabated. Some events are weekly, like Sunday worship, other events occur annually, like birthdays and Christmas.

Finding Time for Family Worship

One pattern that I have clumsily endeavored to establish for decades now is a time of daily worship together in the home as a family. We’ve tried, failed, repented, and tried again hundreds of times over the years. But a couple of months ago, with a little help from a friend, we began again with hopes for a better outcome, a perpetual outcome.

Last summer, my wife attended a talk at the 2015 CiRCE Institute Annual Conference by Cindy Rollins about family liturgy and then related to me what she had learned. She gleaned that the overarching principle in planning a family liturgy for the long haul is to keep the time together short, simple, and therefore, sustainable. The pattern can then become a thread weaving each successive day to the memory of yesterday, as well as a foretaste of what can be expected tomorrow. (more…)

Read more

By In Wisdom

Socrates & Seeking the Truth in Love

socratesMeno:  Somehow, Socrates, I think that what you say is right.

Socrates:  I think so too, Meno. I do not insist that my argument is right in all other respects, but I would contend at all costs in both word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it.” (Plato’s Meno, tr. G.M.A. Grube)

Last month, I was honored to speak at a Collegium event held by New College Franklin in Franklin, Tennessee. I teamed up with a faculty member to speak about “Seeking & Speaking the Truth in Love.” I was “seeking,” focusing on Plato’s Meno, and my counterpart was “speaking,” focusing on Plato’s Gorgias. Actually, I did some speaking too, which is what I’d like to share with you here.

My lecture was entitled “Seeking the Truth in Love,” and it focused on seeking the truth through Socratic dialogue–not Socratic dialogue generally, but specifically, as in the ones Plato wrote. After some introductory remarks and an historical introduction to Socrates and Plato, I walked through the first half of Plato’s Meno, all the way up to the end of the geometry problem with the Slave Boy. My application and conclusion summarized what I have been learning as a Christian studying Plato and how I see those lessons trickling down to my neighbor, who is also seeking the truth.

If you already enjoy Plato, I hope you enjoy this somewhat informal rehearsal of the dialogue. If you are unfamiliar with the study of Plato’s dialogues and have no idea why Christians even spend precious time reading them, then I invite you into one of my favorite things to talk about: Seeking the truth in love, and loving your neighbor through it.


Read more

By In Scribblings

Me and Zaccheus

Luke says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature; Peter tells us to grow in grace and knowledge; Zaccheus shows us what to do if we have not yet grown enough to see Jesus as he passes nearby. We use whatever tools we have in order to improve our vision. Zaccheus had a tree, and you and I have minds, hearts, and appetites, bearing God’s image. Our children bear that image as well, so we train them to use the tools God gave them so they can distinguish truth from falsehood when they meet either. God has given them each a mind, a heart, a belly, a conscience, a will, an identity, a community, a church, and a family. We have God’s Word in our hands and God’s world at our fingertips, so we seek truth in both, and we place both within the reach of the ones God has given us.

Read more

By In Scribblings

Education or Propaganda?

Last summer in a talk entitled “The Harmony of Contemplation,” author and educator Tracy Lee Simmons briefly contrasted the educated mind with the propagandized mind: “[What is] the difference between the educated and the propagandized mind? The one is prompted to think, the other is anesthetized to thought. The one is given the greatest questions, the other is supplied with canned answers. The one seeks a measured and rational view of oneself and others, the other can be lulled into satisfaction with caricatures.”

As our children grow, we parents are often faced with questions that baffle us, stump us, and ultimately, humble us. As this occurs, remembering Mr. Simmons’ three comparisons can help us educate our children as opposed to merely propagandizing them. (more…)

Read more

By In Politics

Never Asking Anything More Than Everything

God never asks for anything less than everything, and in his mercy, never asks for more. He remembers our frame, our dustiness is never hidden from His eyes. A widow’s mite and a sower’s seed are both limited by physical and temporal “smallness,” as are the widow and the sower themselves. All four are finite creatures, and more humbling than finitude, the widow and the sower are both fallen, both sinfully natured and habitually inclined toward sin.

But He places the mite in the widow’s hand and asks, “What will you give?” She gives everything and He asks nothing more. He did not ask for two mites. She gave her fortune, little and limited as it was, and God smiled as He smelled the redolent savor of her sacrifice. What did God do with a penny? I haven’t any clue, but I trust it was something great. He has made it a habit of doing grand and glorious things with the seemingly scant offerings of His creatures.

God knows you’re little. God made you that way, and out of his infinite mercy, He placed His own image within you. You are created, but the one whose image you bear is not. He asks you today, “What will you give?” He wants you to give everything, and will never ask for more than that. He knows your frame. He remembers you are dust.

What about the sower of seed? The farmer loves the earth and the bounty of the earth. Any sower sows in faith. Who would broadcast these dead vessels of future life without believing they can live again, and bear fruit five, ten, and one-hundred fold? Which farmer commands the clouds to spill their liquid life and then depart again to reveal the sun? Which farmer believes he can command the seasons or the stars? Doubt-filled farmers will not remain in that line of work for long. Farming takes faith. And the faithful farmer sows expecting good things in return.

God has given you a parcel of earth to tend. It may be dirt, seed, and crop, but it may not. To an author he has given paper, ink, and words—and a readership. To a teacher he has given books, lessons, and curricula—and a class. To a mother he has given a home, a hearth, and a heart—and children. To a lawyer he has given a legal code, a conference room, and a library—and clients. To each one us, he has given tools, skills, and experience—and the people around us who need us.

Like the sower of seed, you only have so much you can give today and a limited number of people to give it to. God asks for no more than you have to give, but if you hold some back in doubt, like extra manna, it will rot before sunrise tomorrow. You always have just the right amount of seed for today’s field. When the bag is empty, the field is sufficiently sown; if seeds remain, there is work left to do.

And like the widow, you have everything at your disposal that God has placed at your disposal. He only wants to bless you as you give it all, and never asks for a penny more than you have to give. He knows your frame. He remembers that you are dust.

Read more